The Latest: Louisiana governor’s staffer tests positive

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says a member of his staff has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in self-quarantine, along with a dozen other governor’s office employees who were in close contact with the person.

Edwards’ office says the governor isn’t isolating because epidemiologists deemed he wasn’t at risk because he hadn’t recently been within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes.

The Democratic governor says the employee confirmed to have COVID-19 disease is asymptomatic.

“We are monitoring our team and, should it become necessary, will be offering testing to our staff members and tracing their contacts to determine who needs to self-quarantine and who could be at risk,” Edwards said in a statement.

One of Edwards’ staff members, April Dunn, died from a coronavirus infection three months ago.



— Science finds being kind pays off. Numerous studies show when people perform acts of kindness they feel better, are happier and in some cases healthier.

— The U.S. and South Africa have each reported record daily coronavirus infections, with U.S. figures surpassing 50,000 cases a day for the first time.

— President Trump says U.S. economy ‘roaring back’ after jobs report.

— Florida reports 10,000 daily coronavirus cases.

— Closing bars to stop coronavirus spread is backed by science.


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LONDON — The World Health Organization says the world is “lucky” there is a broad pipeline of experimental COVID-19 vaccines, with more than 150 at early stages of testing.

At the end of a two-day research meeting, the U.N. health agency says 17 vaccine candidates are in human trials and some might prove effective by the end of the year, although that the timeline of a licensed vaccine was still uncertain.

“We are very encouraged by the progression of these candidate vaccines and we are looking forward to have the results,” said Ana Maria Henao Restrapo, a vaccines expert at WHO.

She says the pharmaceuticals planning advanced tests in humans shared their protocols for proposed trials with the agency; all were randomized experiments. Several experimental vaccines, including one developed by Oxford University and made by AstraZeneca, are expected to soon move into large-scale trials that could provide data about whether they are effective.

“Whether or not we will have a vaccine in the anticipated timeline is still unknown,” Restrapo said.


MEXICO CITY — The governor of the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas says he’s tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the fourth state leader in the country to be infected.

Gov. Francisco Cabeza de Vaca says on his official Twitter account that he’ll keep working and the area is passing through “a critical moment of infections.”

The state has recorded more than 6,000 confirmed cases and at least 356 deaths, though low rates of testing mean the actual number of infections is likely higher.

México has reported more than 231,000 confirmed cases and 28,510 deaths.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida has reported 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time.

That daily number on Thursday is six times higher than the daily record less than a month ago. The state also reported 67 deaths for the second time in a week.

The seven-day average for daily deaths is now back over 40, a 30 percent increase from two weeks ago. The state’s death rate peaked at 60 per day in early May and declined to 30 by mid-June.

Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Ron DeSantis are scheduled to visit a medical training center in Tampa on Thursday.


TOPEKA, Kan. – The governor of Kansas has issued an order directing the state’s residents to wear masks in public places and work places starting Friday.

The order by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas residents must wear masks in indoor public spaces, while seeking health care or using public transportation. Masks must be worn outdoors in public when people can’t remain at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others.

Businesses must require their employees to wear masks in places frequented by the public, even if members of the public are not present or if they prepare food.

Kelly issued the order after the state had a surge in reported coronavirus cases following her decision to lift statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings on May 26. Kansas law allows each of the state’s 105 counties to opt out.


ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece have reported 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths after reopening the country’s regional airports.

The Health Ministry says the total number of confirmed cases had reached 3,458, while the death toll remained at 192.

Greece reopened its regional airports Wednesday, with direct international flights to many islands and popular holiday destinations.

The government says more than 5,800 tests on travelers had been carried on the first day, using a risk assessment procedure created by a state-run disease control authority. About a third of those samples were analyzed and two infections were confirmed, the agency said


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has recorded the highest spike of coronavirus cases since mid-April as authorities mull the reintroduction of a lockdown.

Authorities announced 359 confirmed cases and six deaths in the last 24 hours, with 80% in the capital of Belgrade. There’s been more than 15,200 confirmed cases and nearly 290 deaths in the country.

Serbia went from having strict lockdown measures to a near-total lifting of the government’s emergency rules. Serbian autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic’s political opponents peg the move to his desire to hold the June 21 parliamentary election, which resulted in his party’s overwhelming victory.

Mass gatherings have been allowed with people not keeping social distance or wearing masks. Thousands of fans packed soccer stadiums, a tennis tournament and night clubs.

Wearing masks indoors became mandatory this week and Serbian media says Vucic is to announce later Thursday the reintroduction of tough lockdown and other measures for the capital and some cluster regions.


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says the positive jobs report Thursday shows the U.S. economy is “roaring back” from the coronavirus.

U.S. employers added a substantial 4.8 million jobs in June and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1% as the job market improved for the second straight month. However, the economy remains far short of regaining the colossal losses it suffered in the spring during the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump says there are still areas where “we’re putting out the flames” of the virus. Many states, especially in the South and West, are experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases and leading some governors to slow the pace of reopening their economies.

The United States reported a record 50,700 infections on Wednesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization’s Africa chief says there is a “tremendous problem, a real crisis of access” to testing materials for the coronavirus on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Matshidiso Moeti says it’s not possible for her to say which countries are buying up supplies but pointed to wealthier countries putting in large orders.

“Generally, the market became very distorted on some of these key items,” she says. As a result, there is “no doubt” there are testing gaps in Africa, she says, with much of the capacity still concentrated in capital cities across the 54-nation continent.

But she believes there is not a large number of undetected COVID-19 cases. Africa now has more than 414,000 confirmed cases. South Africa leads the continent in the number of confirmed cases with more than 159,000 and number of tests conducted with over 1.6 million.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is working on the local development of a COVID-19 vaccine conducted by the National COVID-19 Research and Innovation Consortium of Indonesia’s Ministry of Research and Technology.

The consortium involves state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology.

“Our national consortium is currently developing the protein recombinant platform while for the other platforms, Indonesia is also currently pursuing international cooperation in vaccine development and production,” Chief of COVID-19 Research and Innovation Consortium of Indonesia’s Ministry of Research and Technology Ali Ghufron Mukti said at the conference on Thursday.

Bio Farma is working closely with China’s coronavirus vaccine developer Sinovac Biotech to explore the potential cooperation in development and production of inactivated virus platform. Indonesia’s pharmaceutical company Kalbe Farma is in cooperation with South Korea’s company Genexine to conduct clinical trials of their DNA vaccine platform candidate-named GX-19- in Indonesia.

The government announced the highest single-day increase of coronavirus, with 1,624 confirmed cases for a total of 59,394 in the world’s fourth most populous nation. National Task Force for COVID-19 Mitigation spokesman Achmad Yurianto says 53 people died from the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll total to 2,987.


LONDON — Scotland will require masks to be worn in shops starting at the end of next week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says that the Scottish Government has been considering the issue of face coverings “for some time now.’’ Starting July 10, face coverings will be mandatory.

She says “this is not a decision we have taken lightly. It has taken us some time to reach this decision. But as we all start to interact more, it is vital we take all reasonable steps to reduce risk and we know that face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission indoors.’’

Face coverings have already been mandatory in Scotland on public transport.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities are extending restrictions on movement on several villages in the northeastern province of Xanthi to control a local coronavirus outbreak.

The country’s civil protection agency says the restrictions are being extended a week and include a ban on gatherings of more than eight people and the mandatory use of masks in all private businesses and shops..

An early lockdown helped spare Greece the high death tolls and numbers of critically ill patients in other countries. On Wednesday, the most recent figures available, the overall death toll stood at 192, with 3,432 confirmed cases nationwide.

An increase in positive cases is expected now that Greece has opened its borders to international visitors in an effort to salvage its tourism industry.


TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says the spread of the coronavirus infections are beginning to accelerate again in the Japanese capital.

The daily confirmed cases in Tokyo increased to 107 on Thursday, a spike from 67 the day before and the highest since 154 was reported on May 2 when Japan was under a state of emergency for the pandemic. The number tripled from 31 in just over a week.

Koike is urging the residents to stay away from nightlife districts that are considered the hotbed of infections in the Japanese capital.

Tokyo has 6,399 confirmed cases and 325 deaths, accounting to about one-third of Japan’s national total.


BERLIN — Turkey’s foreign minister is asking Germany to reconsider its warning against tourist travel to his country, arguing that Turkey should be among the countries listed as safe.

Turkey, usually a popular destination for German and other European tourists, wasn’t included this week on a list of 14 countries to whose residents European Union countries were recommended to reopen their borders. A German warning against nonessential tourist travel to Turkey remains in place.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Berlin it’s important for Germany to review its warning and “if objective data were to be put forth, then Turkey would be listed among safe countries.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas didn’t give any firm commitment. He stressed coordination in the EU is important, and the situation is reviewed every two weeks.


LONDON — The World Health Organization says smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalized patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater those risks might be.

In a scientific brief published this week, the U.N. health agency reviewed 34 published studies on the association between smoking and COVID-19, including the probability of infection, hospitalization, severity of disease and death.

WHO noted that smokers represent up to 18% of hospitalized coronavirus patients and that there appeared to be a significant link between whether or not patients smoked and the severity of disease they suffered, the type of hospital interventions required and patients’ risk of dying.

In April, French researchers released a small study suggesting smokers were at less risk of catching COVID-19 and planned to test nicotine patches on patients and health workers — but their findings were questioned by many scientists at the time who cited the lack of definitive data.

WHO says “the available evidence suggests that smoking is associated with increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It recommends that smokers quit.


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For the first time in 108 days, slot machines will beep, dice will tumble and cards will be dealt at Atlantic City’s casinos as they reopen amid a coronavirus pandemic.

Gamblers will not be allowed to smoke, drink or eat anything inside the casinos. They will have to wear masks while in public areas of the casino, and have their temperatures checked upon entering.

Five of the nine casinos — Hard Rock, Ocean, Resorts, Tropicana and Golden Nugget — will open their doors Thursday morning, the first day New Jersey allows them to.

Three others, Caesars, Bally’s and Harrah’s, will reopen Friday, after allowing their highest rollers a one-day head start on Thursday.

Only the Borgata, the city’s top-performing casino, will remain shut. It quickly decided to scrap its planned reopening after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy canceled permission for indoor dining in the state, and imposed smoking and drinking bans on the casinos. The Borgata has not set a reopening date.


PARIS — The French government is asking all companies to keep at least 10 weeks worth of masks for their employees in case of a second wave of virus infections.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said Thursday on RTL radio, “It’s fundamental to respect this guidance. We saw it – our country was not sufficiently stocked with masks” during the first wave.

Shortages of all kinds of masks were a major problem in France when the virus raced across the country in March and April, and are central to several lawsuits launched against authorities.

The government is encouraging companies to buy from French textile manufacturers who have a glut of masks after they switched to making them at government request earlier in the pandemic.

“There is a risk of new circulation of the virus,” secretary of state for the economy Agnes Pannier-Runacher told a parliamentary commission. “We are asking companies to plan for 10 weeks of mask stocks, with a little reminder that we now have French producers.”

France’s national health agency has confirmed more than 300 new virus clusters since the country started reopening May 11, and says about half have been contained. Overall France has reported the fifth-highest number of deaths worldwide from the virus, at 29,861 as of Wednesday, about half of them in nursing homes.


NEW YORK — The United States has reported yet another record daily number of new coronavirus infections, over 50,700 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. is experiencing a surge of new cases, especially in the South and West, as states have reopened their economies from coast to coast.

California closed bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining all over again across most of the state Wednesday, and Arizona’s outbreak grew more severe. The California shutdown announcement, which came just ahead of a Fourth of July weekend that could fuel the spread of the virus, applies to about 30 million people, including Los Angeles County.

The surge in new cases has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or obeying social-distancing rules.

Despite the fact that the U.S. has the most confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths in the world, President Donald Trump did not appear overly concerned.

He told Fox Business: “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”


LONDON — Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran are among more than 1,500 musicians asking the British government to step in and save the country’s world-renowned live music scene from devastation by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Little Mix, Coldplay and Dua Lipa are also signatories to an open letter saying that the ban on mass gatherings in response to the virus could mean “the end of this world-leading industry.”

The letter says that “with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.”

Britain’s summer music festivals are a major employer and revenue-generator. All have been canceled this year, or become online-only events because of COVID-19.

The U.K. government says it is already supporting millions of furloughed workers, including in the culture sector. and is looking at what additional support it can provide.


Categories: National News